Julian Green has yet to earn his first U.S. national team start, but Saturday's friendly against Nigeria could be the perfect opportunity for him to show everyone what he can do.Jurgen Klinsmann has told anybody who will listen that Julian Green is ready for the World Cup.
Even after Green's 27-minute cameo in Sunday's 2-1 win vs. Turkey, a match which saw the youngster struggle to make an impact, Klinsmann continued to offer praise for the 19-year old winger and continued to insist that he is coming along nicely.
Klinsmann's positive comments about his team's youngest player have done little to slow down growing sentiment that Green is a wasted roster selection and a player who should have been left home in favor of the ever-popular Landon Donovan. As unfair as it may be to already be writing off Green after such a small sample size, the reality is U.S. fans simply don't have much to go on and have been shown little to make many of them dismiss their own worst fears.
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Under normal circumstances, it would be easy to say take it slow and let the teenager settle in and have time to adjust, but with the World Cup a week away, now is not the time for such patience. Not with a group of death looming, and not with the U.S. team still looking for answers in its starting lineup.
Which brings us back to Green, who Klinsmann has lauded for his speed, finishing ability and confidence. We have already seen Alejandro Bedoya and Brad Davis during the World Cup send-off series, with both players having been given starts on the left wing. It only makes sense that Klinsmann would give Green a start on Saturday.
Why? Quite simply, because either Klinsmann's constant praise of Green is legitimate and the young Bayern Munich prospect is that impressive in training and that close to being ready to break out, or Klinsmann is simply trying to avoid the reality that he put Green on the World Cup team in order to secure his services long term, even though Green isn't ready for a World Cup.
Which one is it? Klinsmann can show us on Saturday, by starting Green, that the answer is most certainly the former and not the latter.
Spend any amount of time talking to Julian Green and you'll realize pretty quickly that he is a confident player and player who isn't too intimidated by the bright lights shining on the U.S. World Cup team, and shining most brightly on him. There aren't many 19-year-old American players who have faced the media barrage Green has faced in recent weeks and even fewer who have done so with so much ease.
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That is off the field. On the field, veteran teammates have come forward with praise for Green, calling him a kid with a bright future and someone who can be a star one day. DaMarcus Beasley went on record saying Green can help the Americans at this World Cup, and Beasley should know, having himself once been a 20-year-old speedster who surprised American fans by making an impact at a World Cup.
That hasn't stopped there from being a subtle whisper campaign spreading in U.S. Soccer circles suggesting Green hasn't been nearly as impressive as teammates are saying publicly, and that the consistent praise is subterfuge driven by Klinsmann.
That sort of gossip is to be expected given the fact the U.S. team is still facing the stigma associated with Klinsmann's decision to leave out Donovan, a decision that pressed the spotlight squarely on Green even though Green was just one of a handful of players you could point to as options Klinsmann chose over Donovan. It isn't difficult to imagine that there are elements within U.S. Soccer still unconvinced by Green, and still not at peace with Klinsmann's decision to dump Donovan.
Klinsmann could go a long way toward silencing the skepticism by giving Green a real chance to showcase his talents, and Saturday could be that perfect opportunity. Nigeria is a World Cup-bound team, one that will offer a stiff challenge no matter who Klinsmann starts. Klinsmann has already stated he still has some questions to answer about his preferred World Cup starting lineup so he could easily give Green the first 45 minutes on Saturday and allow him to silence the doubters and also build some confidence heading to Brazil. Green would also be starting in the very state where he was born, and doing so in front of family and friends.
That all depends on Klinsmann, and what he truly has planned for the Nigeria match. If he plans on using it to deploy the lineup he sees taking on Ghana, then Green isn't likely to start over Bedoya or Davis, but if Klinsmann decides he can wait until next week's closed-door scrimmage with Belgium in Brazil to test out his first-choice lineup, then Saturday could offer his opportunity to give Green the stage, and a chance to really prove he is ready for prime time.